Cindy Krischer Goodman’s Balancing Act: The business of balance

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At Perry Ellis corporate offices, a group of employees are gathered in the company conference room, stretching into various poses and taking deep breaths. At the front of the room, a yoga teacher from Green Monkey gives instruction. In the increasing struggle for zen, yoga businesses like Green Monkey have discovered opportunity: a demand for restoring balance to stressed-out workers.

The work/​life balance industry now encompasses venders and consultants who make money selling services to employers increasingly concerned with wellness, engagement, morale and productivity. Workplace wellness alone has become a nearly $2 billion industry, projected to hit $2.9 billion by 2016, according to a study by consultants IBIS World.

Newer to the scene are service providers who appeal to individuals — working mothers and fathers or stressed-out leaders — looking to take tasks off their plate, bring order to their lives or create easier ways to work remotely. The category includes personal shoppers and trainers, virtual assistants, meditation leaders, elder-care consultants and life coaches.

What has changed most in the evolution of the industry is widespread acknowledgment that work/​life balance is not a problem just for women or a concern that is going to be solved — but rather an ongoing challenge.

“The recognition has made work/​life balance the subject du jour,” says Jim Bird, founder of WorkLifeBalance.com. “It’s something people look at when considering a job or deciding whether to take a promotion and it’s probably the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs.”

Fueling the focus on work/​life issues is research. Quantifying stress, distraction, perks, engagement and productivity has become a business in itself, with academics and consulting firms spitting out surveys on the factors behind dissatisfaction and turnover.

Inevitably the research points out one crucial finding: Employees are struggling more than ever before with the demands on their time.

“From an employer perspective, it’s no longer just about helping employees,” explains Rose Stanley, a work/​life practice leader at WorkatWork, a nonprofit HR association for organizations focused on strategies to attract and retain a productive workforce. “It’s about tying it back into business strategy.”

Case in point: An estimated 1 million workers miss work each day because of stress, costing companies an estimated $602 per employee per year, according to HealthAdvocate.com.

Providers such as Bright Horizons Family Solutions are catering to employer demand. Twenty-eight years ago, when Bright Horizons CEO Dave Lissy approached a Fortune 500 company to offer on-site childcare to employees, the HR director’s first reaction was to ask why, he says. Today, “why “ is obvious and that same employer company now also uses Bright Horizons Family Solutions to provide employees with backup elder care, elder care case management, sick-child care and other work life benefits such as college or educational advising.

Bright Horizons, now a public company based in Watertown, Mass., has close to 1,000 corporate clients; in 2013, it grossed $1.2 billion in revenue. Mr. Lissy predicts even more growth. “Time is on our side. Those organizations who don’t offer help with work/​life concerns will be behind in a world where human capital is the competitive advantage.”

United States - North America - Florida - Fort Lauderdale

Cindy Krischer Goodman can be reached at balancegal@gmail.com


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